New Zealanders are regularly treated to quality shows presented by local and international artistes and Auckland continues to attract visitors and inspire its residents alike.
‘Love N Stuff’ was one such show presented by Prayas Theatre Company that could be seen as an example to highlight the city’s growing population and changing demography.
A play written by London-based Bengali playwright Tanika Gupta and directed by Auckland resident Sananda Chatterjee, this was Prayas’ first full-length comedy that ran from June 23 to July 3, 2016 at The Auckland Performing Arts Centre (TAPAC) in Western Springs.
Though the original play featured only two actors playing 16 characters, debutante director Sananda and her team featured a talented cast of 16 individuals from diverse backgrounds, with the story having a New Zealand perspective set at Auckland International Airport.
Bindi (played by Sudeepta Vyas) and Mansoor (Mustaq Missouri), a childless couple who reside in the Auckland suburb of Sandringham, are happily married until Mansoor decides to go back to his hometown of New Delhi.
Worried that her husband may walk out of their 35-year bond, Bindi and her friends put forth an array of tactics at Auckland Airport’s Departure lounge in an attempt to convince him not to leave.
Some of them include Bindi recollecting memories of her time in India and with Mansoor as a young man going through triumphs and trials (played respectively by Divya Hariharan and Rishabh Kapoor), while the rest include their friends and acquaintances trying to help ‘seal back’ the couple’s relationship; incidents which were seriously funny (or funnily serious) causing the audience to break into moments of awe and laughter.
Eventually, Mansoor leaves for New Delhi but returns to his wife and the sanctity of his Sandringham home, realising that true happiness is not where one lives but who one lives with.
Set designer Tim Booth created scenarios laden with sofas and with light designer Sam Mence, uniquely transformed scenes from an airport departure lounge to a movie theatre to a Temple, the clever use of setting and lighting giving an overall 3D effect.
The live orchestra comprising Alin John (Guitar and Bass), Karen Plimmer (Piano), Ritesh Vaghela (Octopad, Bass and Guitar), Sayanti Chatterjee (Vocal) and Vipul Dev (Tabla and Cajon), provided background score (literally) to the cast, appearing as though they too are witnessing the characters unfold from behind.
It is hard to believe that ‘Love N Stuff’ is Sananda’s first stint as a director.
She brought reality into many scenes, without the actual backdrops. One such was a number of people crisscrossing the stage, seemingly passengers and visitors at the ‘Auckland Airport,’ bringing the scenic and thematic effect.
It was an enjoyable story with likeable and relatable characters presented by Prayas this season.
On a serious note, the play was successful in bringing out a number of issues that could help in educating the public the perks and perils of migration and the psychological concept of ‘grass being greener on the other side.’
Migrating to a known country includes trying to assimilate into an unknown society, and that can only happen with time and experience.
There is also fantasy versus reality, portrayed by the young Bindi and Mansoor who dream and discuss of a luxurious lifestyle together with high-paying jobs, but soon reality is exposed when day-to-day affairs and responsibilities creep in, prompting the aging Mansoor to leave everything behind and go back to the place he once called ‘home.’
Bindi and Mansoor are just examples of the reality of today’s migrants, but whosoever thinks that they can follow suit by migrating to a foreign land, the advice is better to be prepared for the unexpected than become disappointed.
- Anisha Bhattacharya, Prateek Vadgaonkar and others on a ‘four-wheeler’
- Sudeepta Vyas and Mustaq Missouri at ‘Auckland Airport’
(Pictures by Shovik Nandi)